William "Bill" Kreutzmann, Jr. (bornMay 7, 1946 ) is an American drummer who played with the rock band the Grateful Dead for their entire thirty-year career. He also plays with his own bands BK3 and 7 Walkers, which features guitarist Papa Mali.
Kreutzmann was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Janice Beryl (née Shaughnessy) and William Kreutzmann, Sr. His maternal grandfather was football coach and innovator Clark Shaughnessy. He is of part German descent. Kreutzmann started playing drums at the age of 13. As a teenager, he met Aldous Huxley at his high school, who encouraged him in his drumming despite having been told by his sixth grade music teacher that he could not keep a beat.
At the end of 1964 he co-founded the band The Warlocks, along with Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. Their first real gig was May 5, 1965, two days before Kreutzmann's nineteenth birthday. During the band's early days, Kreutzmann sometimes used a fake draft card with the name "Bill Sommers" to be admitted to bars where the band was playing, since he was underage. In November 1965, the Warlocks became the Grateful Dead.
Meeting fellow percussionist Mickey Hart in the fall of 1967 had a big impact on Kreutzmann's career. Hart soon joined the Dead, making it one of the first (and few) rock bands to feature two drummers. The two percussionists' remarkable cohesion, synchronicity, and driving power became a hallmark of the Grateful Dead sound, and earned them the nickname "the Rhythm Devils". Their lengthy drum duets were a feature of nearly every show from 1978–1995, and are documented in a number of recordings by the band.
Kreutzmann remained with the Grateful Dead until its dissolution after the death of Garcia in 1995, making him one of four members to play at every one of the band's 2,300 shows, along with Garcia, Weir and Lesh.
In 1994, Kreutzmann and the other members of the Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2007, they won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Post-Grateful Dead music
Kreutzmann's first post Grateful Dead musical project was Backbone, a trio with guitarist Rick Barnett and bassist Edd Cook. They released one album, Backbone, in 1998.
In 1998, former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart formed a band called The Other Ones, which played a number of shows as part of the Furthur Festival. The band did not play live in 1999. Then, in 2000, Kreutzmann joined The Other Ones. The band, with Kreutzmann, toured in 2000 and 2002. In 2003, they changed their name to The Dead. The Dead played a number of live concerts in 2003, 2004 and 2009.
Kreutzmann collaborated with Journey guitarist Neal Schon, Sy Klopps, Ira Walker, and Ralph Woodson to form the Trichromes in 2002. They released an EP, Dice with the Universe, and an album, Trichromes.
On December 17, 2005, Kreutzmann participated in the 17th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam as the drummer for SerialPod, a group which also included Phish members Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon.
During 2006, Kreutzmann teamed up with fellow Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, Phish bassist Mike Gordon, and former The Other Ones guitarist Steve Kimock to form the Rhythm Devils. The band features songs from their respective former bands as well as new songs written by Jerry Garcia's songwriting companion Robert Hunter. The Rhythm Devils played their first tour in 2006, which ended at the popular Vegoose festival in Las Vegas, Nevada over the Halloween weekend. In 2008 they released a DVD called The Rhythm Devils Concert Experience.
In 2008, Bill Kreutzmann toured the eastern United States with bassist Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers Band and guitarist Scott Murawski of Max Creek as BK3. In 2009 Oteil Burbridge was replaced by James Hutchinson. In February 2010 the trio played several concerts, with Burbridge again assuming the bassist role.
On August 2, 2009, Kreutzmann played with Phish during most of the 2nd set at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
In 2010, Kreutzmann formed a new band, called 7 Walkers, with guitarist Papa Mali, multi-instrumentalist Matt Hubbard, and bassist Reed Mathis. They toured the southern U.S. in the spring of 2010, with George Porter, Jr. playing bass while Mathis toured with Tea Leaf Green. 7 Walkers has recorded a studio album which was released on November 2, 2010.
Kreutzmann is sometimes the guest drummer with the David Nelson Band when they tour Hawaii. This band includes David Nelson of the "New Riders of the Purple Sage", Pete Sears of Jefferson Starship, Barry Sless and Mookie Siegel. In late January 2012, he played several shows with this band on Maui and then on the Big Island of Hawaii, where they played at the Akebono Theater on February 3, the Lighthouse Deli in Hawi on the 4th and at the Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua on the 5th.
In October 2014 Kreutzmann announced that he had formed a new band, called Billy & the Kids, which would begin performing live in December. The other band members are Reed Mathis on bass, Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits on keyboards, and Tom Hamilton of American Babies on guitar and vocals.
Kreutzmann's memoir, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead, is scheduled to be published by St. Martin's Press on May 5, 2015.
In 1995, Kreutzmann produced a film called Ocean Spirit. The film is a documentary about the six-week expedition that involved a 3,000-mile ocean voyage from San Francisco to the Revillagigedo Islands, 400 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Kreutzmann is featured in the film and was the executive producer. Wesley C. Skiles, noted underwater filmmaker, wrote and directed the project. "We went with no preconceived notions," says Kreutzmann, "except that we were committed to the concept of nonintrusive interaction. We were seeking a way to go beyond our own boundaries as human beings, to meet with the creatures of the sea on their terms. And I hoped somehow to combine film and music to capture that moment of contact." The film has a strong environmental message and "exquisite photography", wrote John Metzger of the Music Box.
Kreutzmann also does work as a visual artist that began in 1993 when he acquired his first computer, a Powerbook 540C with Photoshop installed. Jerry Garcia, already a proficient computer artist, taught Kreutzmann the basics. In 2001, he began releasing limited edition reproductions of his digital artwork. His work can be found at Walnut Street Gallery.
Kreutzmann's son Justin is a film and video director. He directed Backstage Pass, a 35-minute Grateful Dead music documentary video that was released in 1992, and Dead Ringers: The Making of Touch of Grey, a 30-minute documentary released in 1987. In 2001 Justin assisted in the early stages of An Ox's Tale, a documentary about the late John Entwistle, bassist for The Who. Currently he maintains a blog called "Rock and Reel", which covers rock history and his current projects. Already having worked on numerous projects with Pete Townshend, he is the chief cameraman for Townshend's partner Rachel Fuller. Justin's recent works include Rock 'n' Roll Band, a concert film of the music group Tea Leaf Green, and a film titled Fragments, a documentary of The Who's 2006–2007 tour. He is one of the producers of a documentary film about the Grateful Dead planned for release some time in 2015, with Martin Scorsese as an executive producer.
On October 29, 2010, Bill Kreutzmann endorsed Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California. Kreutzmann made the endorsement on the California Marijuana Report radio show. "I smoke marijuana and I'm not a criminal; please vote Yes on 19," Kreutzmann told Eric Brenner, the show's host. "Jerry Garcia would have voted Yes," he added.